Sunday, April 28, 2019

Avengers: Endgame (SPOILERS)

After going out of the cinema, having watched Avengers: Endgame, I was  overcome with a sense of relief, satisfaction, and also a mild disappointment.

I will be posting spoilers for Avengers: Endgame, so if you don't want that, please don't read past this point.

Spoiler Warning

He is Iron Man

I am so very glad they gave Tony Stark the death he deserved - the character and the actor has done a wonderful job starting and keeping the fire alive for 11 wonderful years starting with Iron Man. It was an apt conclusion because as long as Tony was alive, he would be compelled to do something whenever there's trouble.

Also, though not entirely his fault, Iron Man is a fuck up. In every single movie he's been in, Tony Stark fucks up, and he and his friends spend the rest of the movie solving the fuck up.

In Iron Man, he spent decades manufacturing weapons and building his company - weapons that were supplied to terrorists by one of his trusted company people, Obadiah Stane. In Iron Man 2, he's been pushing people away and not addressing his health problem with the arc reactor and has to win them over again, to face the man whose father his own father made enemies with.

In Iron Man 3, he created the villain with his attitude and then challenged the most dangerous terrorist by giving him his home address via the media.

In Avengers, his constant bickering with Cap almost killed everyone, and in Age of Ulton, he again created the villain, Ultron. In Civil War, he came up with the Sokovia accords that led to the split with Cap and half of the team.

Iron Man's stories are always about him fucking up. Tony Stark's confident, flamboyant exterior belies a man fraught with anxiety, shown in Iron Man 3 when he suffered a very public panic attack and in Iron Man 2, when his self-destructive behaviour endangered people around him and pushed people away.

It was a painful thing to see him again blaming himself at the beginning of Endgame, for failing to stop Thanos when he so very nearly did. To have him do the snap at the end, defeating Thanos and his army, was fitting. And to have him die so he could finally rest is a great goodbye. They even showed his funeral where the kid from Iron Man 3 and his daughter, Morgan or something, are present. Those two are now top contenders for the next Iron Man or Iron Heart or help Iron Heart or whatever.

We're done with Tony Stark, and possibly Robert Downey Jr, but Iron Man will return.

O Captain, My Captain

Steve Rogers got the life he left behind, choosing to stay in the past and growing old instead of returning. Captain America has always been a man out of time, the perennial fish out of water, an old man shouting at the clouds. His '40s values don't gel with today's values and makes for interesting stories - in fact, the best movies in the MCU - but it was torture for the character who also has a strong sense of responsibility, just like Tony.

Captain America has been a constant in the MCU. Their moral compass, the one who would sacrifice himself first for his friends. We see this in First Avenger when he threw himself on a dud grenade during training, in Winter Soldier when he decides he would allow Bucky to kill him rather than fight the guy who was his friend, in Civil War when he would fight the entire planet for friendship and honour.

Cap was not infallible. He didn't tell Tony about his parents' murders. But faced with choices to keep the peace and avoid violence, Steve always makes the right choices.

In GE14, some of the messaging I put out was based on Steve's lines. People responded because when it was a fight between morals and cash, integrity and dignity versus corruption and fear, there was no character that embodied integrity and dignity more than Steve Rogers.

In all of the MCU, Steve Rogers is my favourite character. Chris Evans is my favourite actor. Captain America is supposed to be a stick in the mud, but he still made the guy fun and charming.

Death, Where is Thy Sting

I was surprised they killed off Black Widow. She has a movie coming up, which I now hope will be like the first Kingsman, to find the next Black Widow to replace Natasha Romanoff.

Nat has been my favourite side character in all the Avengers movie she's in. You can never fault her level-headedness and thinking and I believed she would have been given the time to shine, finally, in her own solo movie.

Nat was a pragmatic soldier, unencumbered by morals, politics or emotions. She's very effective and is the character I most hoped to be. She was pragmatic to the last, when she fought Hawkeye over who gets to make the sacrifice for the Soul Stone and fittingly, Nat was the soul of the Avengers all these years.

The Wars Fought Before

Now on to the movie as a whole. Endgame is, as one of my friends put it, a love letter to fans and I get it, but I was mildly disappointed because it is the sloppiest work by the Russo brothers in the MCU.

Captain America: Winter Soldier was amazing! That elevator scene is the single best piece of action sequence in the MCU and Cap had his best costume here. WS elevated the genre to greater heights and Civil War, was something else.

Civil War had the most beautiful structure of any MCU film. It started with a global conflict (the very first battle sequence), turning into a family feud (airport scene) and then three guys fighting in a military outpost, and then two guys fighting in a room, and as the scale grew smaller, the stakes grew bigger. Sheer poetry.

Infinity War was a thrill ride from start to finish. You start with the Asgardians getting attacked by Thanos, then Hulk crashes in NY, NY gets attacked, then Vision and Scarlet Witch gets attacked, Cap shows up, then Wakanda, meanwhile Thor joins Guardians of the Galaxy, it was a thrill ride from start to finish with no let up.

Endgame, meanwhile, was NOT a thrill ride from start to finish. The pacing and energy were irregular, bumpy. The fan service and callbacks and set ups for the three major deaths were prioritised over pacing. You have long stretches when nothing happened.

Also, they fought Thanos in the beginning and it ended in maybe 10 seconds. Granted, Thanos had no will left to live, much less fight, but to kill him off - the guy who dominated the entirety of Infinity War - with a meh bookend was disappointing.

Some of my DnD friends disagreed violently (over WhatsApp) on this. One guy said they needed to bring the energy down or else the movie wouldn't have anywhere to go after that.

I disagree. I understand the point, but I disagree. That scene, to me, was like Luke Skywalker throwing away the lightsaber at the beginning of The Last Jedi. Here's this thing/person you cared so much in the last movie - now I throw him/her/it away.

If they wanted to bring the energy down, they could have started the movie right away with the five years later point. Or at least made the early fight with Thanos longer and a bit more difficult. Just a bit more. That's my take.

Back to the Past

Things really got better once Ant-Man came back from the Quantum Realm. In these early scenes, I like the one when Stark got back to earth, sickly and thin and getting angry at Steve. That's my favourite scene. Like, fuck your morals and integrity, Steve. We lost.

There was also that moment when Ant-Man - Scott Lang - met his daughter who's now a teenager. That was touching.

Time travel is confusing and messy. Choosing that as an out is risky and opens up a Pandora's box of shit. Now nothing is impermanent. If say, a country gets destroyed, you can always time travel using Stark and Pym tech and prevent it from happening, if you want to. But arguably there's hardly any other way to write themselves out of the ending of Infinity War and the Infinity Gems being destroyed.

The time travel itself was peppered with scenes from previous movies, like the iconic 360 of the team in Avengers. It feels kind of cheap, though, reusing the footage without inserting the actors into those scenes, a la Back to the Future II.

Another favourite scene is a throwback to that wonderful elevator scene. But instead of fighting these guys, Steve this time uses his brains and whispers "Hail Hydra" to the Hydra plants. That was great!

So they got the Infinity Gems and Stark made a gauntlet for it and Hulk snapped everyone back.

Final Fight

And then we have Thanos. Yes. Thanos from 2014 re-emerges and he is a shadow of his self in 2018's Infinity War. Instead of a character doing what he thinks is best for the universe, the ultimate Malthusian, we have a one note purple baddie who growls about what terrible things he's going to do.

And then we have the biggest superhero fight in all of the MCU movies. It was fan service galore, bigger than Ready Player One. It was really good, but also reminded me of the comic Bersama Selamanya.

I like that Cap lifted Mjolnir, but calling lightning with it was a bit too much, I think. The setup was way back in Age of Ultron, but that showed Cap could only lift Mjolnir a little, and not summon bolts of lightning with it.

I like the Scarlet Witch moment with Thanos when she could very well have killed him if she had sure footing.

And then Tony stole the gems and snapped so Thanos' army turned to dust, along with Thanos himself. And then he died. He could have used just the reality stone and turned everyone into bubbles or paper, but he snapped his fingers anyway and killed himself in the process.

End Thoughts

So, as a fan service movie, as a bookend to these amazing 11 years of 22? 23? movies, it was great. I mostly enjoyed it. But I was hoping for more from the Russos. They always come up with really tight stories and tight action sequences, but the ones in Endgame felt a bit lacking. The plot has holes, the action, to me, a bit weaker. As a fan, I loved it. But as a movie, it suffers from too many things that shook me from enjoying it too much, as I did Infinity War or Civil War.

So what's in the future for the MCU? I don't know. I don't really care. My three favourite characters died or retired, as I hope I would someday. I no longer feel compelled to watch EVERY MCU movie every year. I might watch them on Netflix or the new Disney streaming service.

I'm done with the MCU not with hate or much disappointment, but with a satisfying finish to something that has coloured my life for over a decade. And for that, I give my thanks.

Avengers: Endgame: 3/5 stars